By Denise Ortuno Neil
Just south of Orange County’s most prestigious city of Newport Beach, sits the picturesque town of Corona Del Mar dear to my heart. It comfortably stretches along the Pacific Coast Hwy with royal confidence and over the bluffs of the ocean that graciously furnish world class views. With exceptional dining, shopping and beaches, Corona Del Mar is a perfect way to indulge one’s self, while escaping the desert summer heat.
Named Corona Del Mar, Spanish for Crown of the Sea , the area was built by developer George Hart, who in 1904 purchased the over 700 acres from the well land endowed Irvine Ranch, in order to create a summer resort, with quaint summer cottages. The problem, or maybe not so much of problem now, is that summer vacationers decided to stay…indefinitely. At the time, vacationers could only get to the seaside village by boat via the peninsula, or through a rough dirt road. But in 1926, the development of the Pacific Coast Highway made travel to Corona Del Mar much more accessible and pleasant.
The beach part of Corona Del Mar is an obvious draw, and at one time was a top surfing spot until the extensions of the jetty’s adjacent to the beach changed all of that, relinquishing its hot surf spot status to what became the ever popular “Wedge” across the way at the tip of the Newport Peninsula (Balboa). There are two popular beaches in Corona Del Mar, there is the large state beach and a smaller more intimate one proportionality named, Little Corona Del Mar.
As a child growing up in Orange County, my family and I would frequent the beaches of Corona Del Mar with consistent glee. It was fun to traverse the rocks that separate the big beach from the little one. The difference between the two beaches is that the little one is perfect for kids as the water is calm and waves easy to navigate through without being tossed around. It is where I learned how to swim…it is a vibrantly clear and fond memory. The big beach, or as I called when I was little, the big kids beach, was a scene straight out of a “Gidget” movie, just with modern bathing suits….that’s how I saw it back then anyway. In actuality, it is a mixture of beach goers, all there to soak up the rays and all that makes Corona Del Mar beaches so stunning. The beaches are surrounded by bluffs and rock formations. The grassy intimate parks atop the beaches make for perfect places to reflect and take in the generous views.
On the same street as the parks, it is hard not to notice the AMZAZING (worth all caps) mansion like homes that line Ocean Blvd. You can easily make a day of oohing and aweing at these breathtaking houses. They range from every style…Modern, to Mediterranean, to Cape Cod…to even something that looked like it was right out of the Hobbit movie, but for a really ultra-wealthy Hobbit, it is crazy cool, and if you go there’s no way you can miss it. But if you’re looking to check out house’s that might be a little more manageable and don’t require such a large staff to maintain it, then just drive down one of the side streets such as Narcissus, where you will find the most adorable cottages, something I’m sure Mr. Hart had in mind from the start.
Down the same street, at the corner before you turn onto Pacific Coast Hwy, there is the cutest See’s Candy in Orange County. The store has been in that location for almost 60 years, and was a place where my family would stop for a chocolate or two, after beach time was over. It will make your visit that much sweeter (too much??).
As you travel further south down the Hwy there is another place you must stop by to complete the Corona Del Mar experience, it is the Five Crowns Restaurant (www.lawrysonline.com/five-crowns). The building was built in 1935, and has darling storybook English style, complete with the red phone booth out front. It was once a residence and eventually in 1965, became the restaurant it is known for today. It is the go to place for Prime Rib in all of Newport Beach.
There is no doubt that Corona Del Mar is one of the most cozy, yet affluent towns along the Southern California Coastline. And for me, it holds vivid childhood memories…I can still taste my mother’s chicken sandwiches that she’d pack for our beach excursions, slightly warm with just the right amount of crunch from the sand blown onto them by the sea breeze. With all that Corona Del Mar has to offer, it is certain that you will make your own cherished memories, and of course have some time in a cooler climate and have a fantastic desert summer heat escape.
For more information about Corona Del Mar visit www.cdmchamber.com